When the City Club of Boise last week honored Jim Weatherby with its highest award, the Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement, Weatherby was predictably humble.
“Dottie Stimpson had a major impact on this community,” he said. “I’m glad in some way to share in that by receiving this wonderful recognition.”
Stimpson founded the City Club in 1995, with the aim of providing Boise with a venue where its citizens could learn about and discuss important issues of the day in a nonpartisan, civil manner. The club’s motto is, “Things happen when people start talking.”
As a reporter who has spent many years covering Idaho politics, the well-informed words of Weatherby have helped me, along with my readers, understand and make sense of a stunning array of political happenings in Idaho. In many ways, his perspective was so helpful because he’d been there.
Weatherby, who holds both a doctorate and master’s degree in political science from the University of Idaho and a bachelor’s degree in history from Northwest Nazarene University, joined the Association of Idaho Cities in 1974 and served as its executive director for 15 years, advocating for significant legislation affecting local governments in Idaho ranging from local revenue sharing to tax increment financing. That meant he spent 15 years lobbying the Idaho Legislature. When he left the AIC, the organization created the “Dr. James B. Weatherby Award” in his honor, and awards it each year to recognize superior performance by a city official.
In 1989, Weatherby joined Boise State University as a professor of public administration and political science and director of the Public Policy Center. He established the widely respected annual BSU Public Policy Survey, and led the development of and accreditation of the master’s in public administration program at BSU, which remains the only such program in the state.
“Those public policy surveys, people look at them – even the ones from 20, 30 years ago,” said BSU professor Stephanie Witt.
And Weatherby taught generations of students, both in formal classes at BSU and through training programs he established through the Policy Center for Idaho’s local governments associations.
Witt said, “The proof of Jim’s success is really in our students. … We have legislators, mayors, people on city councils, state agency directors … people who run local agencies, nonprofits, in the Legislative Services Office, National Interagency Fire Center, Forest Service. … There’s not a nonprofit or government agency in the region that hasn’t been touched by students who learned from Dr. Weatherby.”
He authored nearly 50 professional papers, scholarly articles and books, and appeared frequently as a political commentator on Idaho Public Television, on KTVB-TV and in the pages of newspapers and other publications throughout the state, sharing his expertise on the latest happenings in Idaho’s state and local government and politics.
Bill Manny, producer and writer at Idaho Public Television and longtime Idaho journalist, said at the awards ceremony last week, “He was friendly, he was informed, he didn’t take sides, and he didn’t seek out the limelight – we sought him out.”
KTVB anchor Doug Petcash said, “I think of him as the guru of all things governing Idaho. In fact, he even wrote the book, ‘Governing Idaho.’ ”
Weatherby and his wife, Dana, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. They have two children and three grandchildren and live in Boise.
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